The idea of the San Diego Chargers breaking their current playoff drought this season took a serious hit on Sunday, but the Bolts have to feel like their team is back on the right path in terms of ultimately snapping that dubious run next year. One of the primary reasons for them likely coming up short this season, however, is shoddy play from the secondary. It’s highly likely that the team will try to repair this shortcoming in the 2014 NFL Draft, and their main focus needs to be finding a top notch cornerback.
Last offseason the Bolts allowed two veterans originally drafted by the franchise in the first round to leave via free agency. It’s not like the longest tenured Bolt Quentin Jammer and 2008 first rounder Antoine Cason were exceptional in coverage or anything, but reliability is something that takes time to replace.
Derek Cox was supposed to come in and be a solid addition via free agency, but inconsistent play has led him to the bench on multiple occasions in favor of depth players. The team also had high hopes for fifth rounder Steve Williams, but a torn ACL forced him to miss his rookie campaign. Shareece Wright has been decent at times, but the third-year man has been somewhat unpredictable himself and prone to mistakes at critical times.
Needless to say, some help will be needed in the secondary for general manager Tom Telesco in the upcoming draft. It’s arguable if the team should consider the corner position its top need or not, but in today’s NFL teams can never have enough quality cover guys at their disposal.
A fast riser who could interest the Bolts is Michigan State’s Darqueze Dennard, and his 5-foot-11 197-pound frame offers solid size at the position where receivers continue to get bigger and bigger. He recently took home the Jim Thorpe Award as college football’s top defensive back, and the Spartans’ defense has proven to be awfully formidable all season long. Dennard is comfortable in press and simply doesn’t get beat very often by the man lining up across from him. Those traits will certainly come to serve him well as he transitions to the NFL level.
Other possibilities are Oregon cover man Ifo Ekpre-Olomu and Oklahoma State’s Justin Gilbert. Gilbert has the better size of the two at 6-foot 200-pounds, and his ability as a return man adds extra value to his potential at the next level. Ekpre-Olomu is a very physical player with the ability to help out in defending the run, but he’s not quite as tall and is somewhat susceptible to getting burned in zone coverage.
Depending on where the Chargers ultimately finish and what selection they hold in the first round of the upcoming draft each of these guys could hold water as a potential selection in May. With Cox’s struggles this season and a real lack of consistency from anyone in the secondary it’s quite possible the depth chart is entirely open heading into camp next year. Landing one of these premier cover prospects will really give the team a serious boost in the secondary looking ahead to next season.